Monday, November 26, 2007

Abigail's Birth Story

What a wild ride this has been. It was an occasion filled with odd-defying turns of events and surprises for us. I'll start as near to the beginning as I can. Strap yourself in, cause this will be a long post. But, I promise to sprinkle it with pictures and I hope you'll stick with me to the sweet, sweet end.

On Tuesday, Nov 20th, I called the midwife. Man, you know how impatient I'd been, but I was starting to worry about interrupting everyone's Thanksgiving plans, the size of the baby, and the timing of our insurance (our Tricare coverage was ending as Don's official time with the military is now complete!). So, I called and asked what they (she and her assistant) thought about breaking my water if she was in a good position. They had been discussing the same thing and we agreed it seemed like a logical course of action. They arrived at our house a little before 4pm and did an exam. Abby's head was still down, she had dropped lower, and everything looked great. The bag of waters was bulging ahead and preventing her head from compressing the cervix, which is why I had been having so many false starts to labor. After hearing stories about amazingly quick births after breaking the water, we decided to get Don home and get set up before doing it. We also got a picture in of my 41 weeks plus 3 days big belly. As it turned out, I had what is called polyhydramnios, or excess water. This occurs, apparently, in only .5-2% of births. There were over 4 pounds of water that came gushing out! Whew! I actually fainted shortly after the water was broken! I don't know quite what happened there. Perhaps it was just too much for my body to comprehend at the moment. Anyway, we took an after shot of my belly and were amazed at the difference in the 2 pictures.
Here they are. The top is before and the bottom is after. I feel like it looks like I went backward in time a month or two!

So anyway, my water was broken at 4:55pm on the 20th. I was, at the time, about 4 cm dilated. My contractions began quickly, but they were fairly few and far between. I didn't spend a whole lot of time or effort timing them, but the midwives had their eye on the clock. They declared that I had moved into active labor by around 6pm. The contractions were very easy. The midwives kept me up and moving to try to intensify things, but I never moved past the stage were I just needed to stop walking and focus through a contraction. I wasn't focusing so much because of pain, but just to keep myself relaxed and because it was just intuitive. I felt the need to stop and let my body do it's work before moving on. The midwife did several exams with me, which is unusual, but they were worried that I wasn't dilating as I should be because my demeanor was so calm and I never declared pain. But, all along, I continued to dilate and by 6 cm, they let me get in the birth pool. It was so calm and pleasant and I was really enjoying myself. At this point, we called our neighbors, Lesa and Hannah, over. Lesa is the mom of 9 (with a few home births under her belt) and Hannah is her 16-year old daughter. They were planning on helping us through the labor with whatever needed to be done. Lesa, the midwife, her assistant, and I sat around chatting while I was in the pool, but the contractions started to slow a little and they ordered me out. It was back to pacing around for me. I also spent some time on the birth stool and the birth ball trying to encourage Abby to descend.
Here I am at about 9 cm dilated on the birth ball. I was talking and laughing between contractions, focusing during, and all the while, just completely amazed that I was still not in what I would consider pain. When I compare all this to my other 2 births, it makes me think that pitocin must have been invented by the devil himself. With the other 2, I was in tears and agony from the start of hard contractions.

This whole time, Caleb really made himself pretty scarce. He was uncomfortable with seeing too much of me. He was willing and ready to come see the birth, but didn't want to have to see all the "before" stuff. He spent most of his time downstairs playing games or watching movies with Hannah, the neighbor. But, he did come up regularly and, backing his way in so he wouldn't seen anything, ask if everything was alright and if we needed anything. He was so cute.

Meagan, however, was excited beyond belief to share in every bit of labor. She watched every exam and was so incredibly helpful in getting whatever was needed. She wants to become a midwife when she grows up. However, things started to drag on into the later hours, and even an aspiring midwife needs her sleep!
We suggested she lay down in our bed so that she'd be nearby and we could wake her easily if anything exciting happened. She agreed and, within minutes, was snoring. She remained there for quite a while, sleeping soundly while I was getting examined in the same bed and we were all talking and laughing around her.

At around 8 cm, the midwife had felt and elbow come to the opening. Her head was still there, but her elbow was coming first. The midwife said that it would mean that she would probably need to help pull the arm out first as Abby crowned in order to give room for her head to follow. I continued to progress to 10 cm, but by 10 cm, the midwife could no longer find Abby's head there with her elbow. It felt as if Abby's head had moved over and was sitting off to the side. We talked about just waiting to see what happens, but the midwife suggested that the best course of action would be to go to the hospital at this point. She was concerned about the cord being able to slip down through now that Abby's head was not there to block it. She also felt that with an ultrasound, they might be able to manipulate Abby back into position.

At 2am, the morning of the 21st, we left for the drive to Omaha. There was no emergency, as both Abby and I were doing fine, so we just drove, with the midwife and her assistant following. We arrived at the hospital at about 3:30am, and were put into a small room where only Don could be with me. The backup doctor (family practice) who I had seen earlier, had not arrived yet, but one of his partners came in and examined me and did an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that Abby had completely turned and was now transverse. Her head and feet were out to the sides and her spine was down and across the cervix. Transverse presentation happens in only 1 n 2500 births. Unfortunately, unlike other breech presentations, there is only 1 way to get that baby out and that is by C-section. Other breeches can still be delivered normally, although many physicians will not attempt it. However, a transverse, especially one at this stage of labor, just won't come. When the doctor told me this, I started to cry. This was so far removed from the serene home birth that I had wanted. But, I was comforted by this...when I started to cry, the doctor did as well. I have never seen such empathy in a doctor before. He knew I had attempted a home birth and knew how disappointed I was. He said that he would've delivered any other type of breech, even when others wouldn't. But, he just couldn't make this happen. The midwife (who was now considered my doula since walking through the doors of the hospital) was able to stick her head in and cry a little with me as well. But, they wouldn't let her stay in the room and we told her to go home and rest. We would call when it was over.

The began to prep me for surgery and Don and I were emotional wrecks. At one point, the doctor came in to explain some things and told us that there was a slight possibility that he may need to make a vertical cut as well in order to pull her out, as she was in such a bad position. This would mean that I could never labor again. Through tears and prayers, Don and I readied ourselves for the surgery.

Don was able to sit in with me through the surgery. I have never felt anything as uniquely bizarre as that C-section. The pulling and tugging and pushing was so strange. Don remembers the doctor saying that an arm popped out immediately when they cut into the uterus. This made the doctor concerned because he wanted something more substantial to pull on than an arm, but she made it out ok. I knew that she was out and heard her give a little whimper. Of course, the tears came again! I got a tiny peek of her before they whisked her off to another room. She was having trouble getting going and needed some oxygen. They worked on her for a while, while the doctors worked on putting me back together. They did bring her back in and laid her on my chest for a few moments for me to kiss and look at. She was beautiful.

Don then was able to go with Abby (and I told him to!) while they finished on me. I laid there and listened to them talk about the stitches and counting the instruments. They lost one for a few moments and the whole room stopped doing anything else until it was found (it had been hiding in the placenta!) which made me a little relieved. I didn't want to be one of those who comes home with a pair of scissors sewn up inside! I got back to the recovery room and Don, with Abby, was just a few seconds behind me. And, here she was.
It was so different not seeing her right away after being born, as I had done with the other 2. I know I will continue to mourn the loss of many things I had wanted in this birth, and that is one of them...seeing her emerge. But, I am so grateful that she made it through everything just fine.
Don got to hold her and even catch some shut-eye while we waited for our permanent room. And yes, that is a beard he is sporting.
Here I am, holding my precious baby.
We got into our new room and almost immediately, it began to snow. It was so beautiful to see the large flakes outside the window. Abby's birthday was the first snow of the season. You can see a little accumulation here on the roof.

Recovery was fairly uneventful. I did end up needing a transfusion, but that went smoothly. I will say that C-section recovery is in a whole other league from a normal recovery. It has been much harder.
My dad came to see his 3rd grandchild.
And the kids loved holding their new sister.
But, I held her as much as I possibly could. She was, by far, the best-looking newborn we've had, since her head didn't have to be squeezed through a small opening. She is just perfectly beautiful.

We left the hospital Thanksgiving evening, about 36 hours later. I just wanted to get home and get our family back together again. And, I knew I would recover better in my own home.

I did end up developing a "spinal headache" from the spinal they gave me for the surgery. To combat that, I'm on some pretty strong narcotics. Therefore, I apologize for anything that isn't coherent! Now, I must go and feed my little baby. Thanks for hanging in there with me through the story!

Abigail Ruth
born 5:31 am, November 21st, 2007
weighing 9 lbs, 7 oz and 21.5 inches long
precious gift of God


Rachel said...

Gina, You don't know me but I've been reading your blog since just before you moved to Nebraska. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! Thank you for sharing your birth story--I cried when the doctor told you she was transverse. I hope your recovery goes smoothly and that you are able to enjoy your sweet baby.

Did the doctor have to do a vertical incision also?

Gina said...

Thanks for your well wishes! I completely forgot to go back and say that indeed, he did NOT have to do the vertical incision as well! Praise the Lord for that. He was able to hook a shoulder and move her head around to come out without the extra cut.

JennR said...

WOW! She sure is pretty Gina! I am so glad she is finally here! In the picture where you are holding her and you are looking at her (I think it is the last one), I think she looks like Caleb. Has she been a good baby so far?

Cindy in GA (from SL) said...

Congratulations Gina & Don! Abigail is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story~

Traci B. said...

Congratulations Underwoods! Sounds like Abigail's birth was very eventful, but praise the Lord that she made it safe and sound. Enjoy every minute with your new little girl. We'll be checking in to see new pictures of her. She looks beautiful. Meagan and Caleb, have fun with your new baby sister!
PS. Thanks for sharing the details of her birth.

Jeffrey said...


I just read in a natural birth book that rupturing membranes before baby is really ready can cause baby to move out of position. So sorry your homebirth ended up a c-section. Next time. :)


Innocence Underrated said...

I read your story after I got your comment... your home laboring (even tho it didn't make it to a home birth) sounded so much better than laboring in the hospital. It let you be in control! It's unbelievable women aren't more educated about their bodies, their babies, and birth. Good for you!! And what a pretty girl.